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News Release - BSMTTC News 72
Dateline: 9 December 2017

Celebrating Life

One of the aspects of our table tennis club that has seen considerable growth and development in recent years is the daytime social and recreational table tennis, especially among the 'more mature' adult age group. Just a few years ago there was one weekly daytime session; now there are people gathering almost every day. They come to enjoy a social game of table tennis, a cup of coffee, a biscuit and a chat. And judging by the crowds turning up, they seemingly can't get enough of it!

It is therefore particularly sad when we have to report on the loss of one of our members. As quite frankly, we don't want to lose anyone! Mary Barrett was one of our newer members. For some time she had supported partner Keith Dudley, a long standing member and recently a very successful team captain. But Mary has always been a very active woman, enjoying walking and bowls, and so in the end gave in and joined Keith at the ping pong club as a social member. It is therefore with deep regret that we report that Mary lost her battle with cancer on 24 November. The esteem in which she and partner Keith were held was evidenced by the fact that around 30 club members attended Mary's funeral at Thornton Crematorium on Friday 8 December, conducted by Funeral Celebrant Sarah Horton. In fact there were so many family and friends present that the crematorium was full to overflowing with people standing in the aisles and the entrance doorway. As a club we were delighted to be able to be part of the celebration of the life of this "cheerful and courageous woman who always had a positive outlook on life and who wanted others to be cheerful too".

Mary with Keith at a club social event in August 2017

Memories of Mary's Life

It seemed fitting that the service should begin and end with music from the Beatles. Starting with "A little help from my friends" and concluding with "Here comes the sun!". In between there was time for reflection, an excellent summary account of Mary's life, and thoughtful words of committal. We are sad and sorry to lose a member, but along with Mary's family and friends we celebrate a life lived to the full and will do all we can to support Keith as he comes to terms with the loss of Mary.

Below we share some of the text of the account of Mary's life given by Sarah Horton, along with a few pictures that focus on Mary's time with our table tennis club.

Memories of Mary's Life - by Sarah Horton

"Mary was born in 1945, and younger sister Sheila arrived 11 years later. Their mum was also Mary, known as Mamie. They lived Elstow Street in Kirkdale. Despite the age difference the two sisters were close, although they’d fight sometimes and pull each other’s hair, causing the dog to hide behind the couch.  Mary passed her Eleven Plus and went to Everton Valley, and when she was 16 she went to work at the Royal Insurance in the Dingle.  She loved that job, it had a great social life, and after a night out she couldn’t wait to go in and talk about it with all the others.  Mary had lots of friends, and after a night out at the weekend several friends would come back to their house, handy with it being nearest to town so a cheap taxi. Sheila, who shared a room with Mary, would wake up on Sunday morning to find about three other girls strewn about, along with various hair pieces and false eyelashes!

Mary loved the outdoors and was a keen and active walker for many years.


Sheila goes on to recall that when Mary was about 19 our father left, and our mother developed schizophrenia, it was a difficult time. On many occasions over the next 20 years their mother spent up to six months in hospital leaving Mary and Sheila on their own. So, Sheila had to learn to cook quick! Mary, being the eldest, had to shoulder the responsibility of the house and sort mother out when she became ill. Mary, with her cheerful attitude, just got on with things. And she enjoyed life - and being a rambler helped. Mary always loved walking.  At The Royal Insurance Mary began work as a punch card operator in a pool of girls. She built her career, eventually working in IT, doing the network and setting up installations. She was good at it, she liked organizing and liked the travel and - important to Mary - it was sociable.  It was through The Royal she played squash, and went on their rambles which she loved. She also went to the wine circle with Viv and had a good time! This can be attested to by Keith, who picked her up from the station! Mary met Keith in a club in town, and he said they found they had shared interests that they could talk about, as well as an interest in walking. Keith recalls going on a long walk in Cheshire, stopping for a drink in the pub ‘The Headless Woman’, his legs were worn out, whereas Mary could manage 15 miles easy!


Mary was made redundant at age 47, and initially found the loss of routine difficult, but she settled down with a part-time job at Bradford and Bingley building society. She liked the social aspect of work. In the early 80s Mary bought her first house at Chestnut Road, in Walton, which she loved. She made many friends in her close who became life long friends. Mary always had cats - her very favourite being ‘Blackie’, a big black cat, he was her ‘right hand man’. He’d walk round the block with her, and wait for her after work.


Mary was never fazed by doing jobs at home. At the house in Walton she always had a puddle out the back, but armed with The Sunday Times DIY Book, Mary and Sheila decided to create a soak-away. Sheila started digging while Mary was at work, and when Mary came home she joined in and they both dug the massive hole and then got the gravel, and created a soak-away. So no more puddles!


Sheila said they grew up in the era of ‘make do and mend’ and that always carried on, so the idea of re-using stuff and fixing things was natural to Mary. It wasn’t that she wouldn’t spend money, she was generous and gave to charity, but she had an 
 ‘eco-spirit’, and liked to re-use stuff and do stuff herself. Sheila said it was just what they were used to, and they both went on to enjoy decorating. 


Mary then sold the Walton house - without an estate agent - and bought the bungalow in Crosby, which needed a re-wire and everything doing to it. But Mary really liked the bungalow. She enjoyed having a project. She planned the IKEA kitchen, ordering everything herself, dithering about things, but happy in the end. And the bathroom project occupied her for about six months planning it.  Keith recalled how Mary would buy and sell her cars without help, and homes without an estate agent, and bought all the fittings for a new kitchen and bathroom. She would then arrange and supervise the contractors. One of whom was told, ‘You’ve priced for it and that’s what I want,’ and off he slouched.


Mary loved the bungalow in Greenway, the house itself, but also her neighbours and living in Crosby. She was warned about getting ‘bungalow legs’; though with the amount of walking she did it would never happen!

Although she had no children of her own Mary always took an interest in her two nieces Helen and Anna. Of course, Sheila said affectionately, Mary being Mary, she knew exactly how Sheila should be bringing them up and where I was going wrong! She always wanted to know everything they did, who they saw, why they did things. She had a very keen interest in them and I could never answer all her questions about them to her satisfaction.


Mary enjoyed family holidays - sometimes as a four with her and Keith, and Sheila and Nigel, and sometimes with Helen and Anna too. Mary was a real outdoor person, walking as a member of The Royal Insurance Ramblers and also the Liverpool Catholic Ramblers for most of her life and did many long walks with them. She loved nature and walking in the countryside, as well as dancing, especially jiving and even some ballroom. She said dancing with Keith contained one arm wrestling!

Mary loved walking holidays and Sheila recalled that they had many happy times in Kevin’s Caravan in Anglesey, where they would do many walks - Mary loved Anglesey.  Sheila, Nigel and Keith recalled many happy memories of holidays in Cornwall and Devon - Fowey, Brixham, and their last holiday this summer in Ilfracombe. Mary and her family walked from Lynmouth beach up to the top of the Coombe - it was fantastic.  When she retired Mary found the bowls club in Crosby a very sociable activity. She also had been a member of a cycling club and had friends from there. Mary really enjoyed life, she knew how to enjoy herself and squeeze every last drop out of life. She was a ‘doing person’ who could lend her hand to most things if she applied herself, like the paintings in her living room.


Mary was good at everything really…. but couldn’t sing in tune. Keith described Mary as small in stature but very strong and independent with a great sense of humour. Mary was a courageous person and if she thought someone was doing something wrong she would always speak up. She wouldn’t care about the consequences of speaking out, for example people dumping stuff or not picking up after their dog. If you were out with her, you would be cringing as Mary faced them down - all five foot of her.

Mary had really enduring long term friendships with many people. These include:

- Berni and Paul, and Margaret and Keith - Berni and Margaret are friends from when Mary lived in Kirkdale. Berni described her as a ‘surrogate aunty’ to her children. - Jean and Tony from Crosby; - Dorothy, and Beryl and John from Chestnut Road; - Vivien from the Royal Insurance, and Vivien described Mary as ‘good fun’ and ‘we will all be less happy without her’. When Mary became ill her friends really rallied round - all of those we’ve mentioned here were a great help to her, as well as many friends she would talk to on the phone - often for an hour or so, she had individual relationships with her friends. She liked lots of people to talk to. She loved talking, and she really valued her friends - so can I thank you for being Mary’s friend.

Throughout her illness and in life generally Mary was supported by her sister Sheila her husband Nigel and her beloved nieces Helen and Anna. And so many friends; bowling friends, friends in Feet First Ramblers and latterly many friends in Bath Street Table Tennis Club.


During her illness Mary and Keith joined the Marine Table Tennis club. Mary told Sheila that when she was playing table tennis she completely forgot about her illness and it gave her a brief respite from the anxiety she had about it. It was a real port in a storm for her. Keith said she would laugh when she smashed the first ball past her coach  - also called Keith!

Sheila said they would joke Mary could have worked for the DHSS as she could find out anything, she was very observant and loved to hear about others lives. In hospital Mary was known as ‘M1’ by the nurses. The cleaner said, I love Mary even though she bosses me about. Mary even scolded one son visiting his mum, saying ‘Stop telling her what to order for dinner and I’ve got my eye on you.’ He took it in good stead.

Mary loved to laugh. She had a good outlook on life, and was very positive, she didn’t believe in being miserable but enjoying yourself as much as you can. Mary faced life with stoicism, and her great sense of humour. And in Keith’s words: “So let’s mirror Mary’s stoicism and humour and not mourn, but celebrate her life and memories she has left us with.”

Mary will be missed by all who loved her."

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